York City Knights today confirmed their automatic promotion into the Betfred Championship with their home win over Whitehaven clinching the title for the Minster city club.
With the Cumbrians needing a win to hold onto the final play-off spot, York had a harder challenge than their title rivals Bradford who hosted Hemel. That difficulty was highlighted by the half time score at Bootham Crescent with a 40th minute penalty goal from Connor Robinson – who, on the afternoon, broke the club’s points and goals in a season records set by Danny Brough – giving the Knights a 10-8 half-time lead. A tight, tense first half saw the score at 4-2 to York on the half hour mark with penalty goals being the sole source of points for both teams, Robinson kicking twice for the hosts in response to Daniel Abram’s early opener. However, York scored the first try of the match as winger Matt Chilton – with local amateurs York Acorn until recently – crashed over on the left flank to make the score 8-2 to the hosts. Whitehaven hit back almost immediately though as, following an error from the hosts, hooker James Tilley was able to scoot over under the posts. Following the conversion, the scores were level before Robinson booted a penalty from in front of the sticks with seconds remaining until half time.
With the title on the line, a 10-8 half time score was too close for comfort for the hosts and the need for the Knights to get more points on the board fast was paramount. Whitehaven were the last team to beat York this season and proved in the first half that they weren’t to be underestimated. However, some ill discipline from the Cumbrians saw York make easy yardage at the start of the half and two more Robinson goals extended the Knights’ lead to 14-8 after the hour. Then, the game breaker came. Racing onto a great pass, second-rower Sam Scott raced in after hitting a good line to give the hosts a ten point lead and when former NRL forward Joel Edwards powered over shortly after, York fans started to feel that the job was nearing completion.
A second ‘Haven try in the corner, scored by Danny Green and converted again by Abram, didn’t dampen the hosts’ mood and, when Chilton crossed again to finish after superb work by fellow winger Ash Robson and Ben Cockayne, the party could start.
The distance the club has travelled in the last two years from when it was almost folded in late 2016 is nothing short of remarkable. With chairman John Flatman supporting James Ford, one of the best young coaches in the country, the Knights have played an entertaining and effective brand of rugby through the season with a mix of experience and youth giving the city of York a rugby league team it can be proud of once more.
2019 will – in the summer – see the Knights move to a new stadium and, right now, the future looks very bright indeed for York.